Your answers: “What is the religious climate in your country?”

February 14, 2011 | 65 comments

Since so many of you told me that you were fascinated by the comments to the post from last week but didn’t have time to read them all, I did the hard work for you! Below is a distillation of the 100+ comments that I received from readers all over the world:

What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

  • Ciska in Belgium: The part where I live is probably the most Catholic part of the country…Most people consider themselves Catholic, but they don’t attend church…We also have an active beguinage and several convents. It’s not unusual to see a sister walking through town.
  • Cheryl in Western Alsace, France: My husband is a Lutheran pastor. I don’t think…traditional churches would have what we as Americans consider “active memberships.” Some practice (mostly women). Many more do not, but have been baptized, confirmed, married in the church. My husband typically leads two services on Sunday morning for a total of maybe 30 people (two different villages/church locations). Sometimes there’s only 3 or 4 people present.
  • B. in Southwestern Germany: There is both a protestant and a catholic Church in every village or suburb. Church attendance is almost nonexistant in both. Only people over 80 years of age attend church. If I go to my local parish, there is not one single person of my age (~30) attending.
  • Julie in Portugal: Church attendance is still mainly Catholic and is becoming less and less. The average age of attendees is very old.
  • Respectful Reader in Norway: On any given Sunday no more than 2% of Norwegians attend church services.
  • Rebekka in Copenhagen, Denmark: Around 80% of the population belongs to the Danish Folk Church (Lutheran) and pays church tax. There are churches all over the place, but only a very small fraction of members actually go to church and they are typically the elderly…The Catholic churches are typically filled up on Sundays. The one I go to is standing room only every Sunday.
  • Kmo in Western Norway: Not very good. There were many very old, small Lutheran churches, but no Norwegians I knew attended church…There are also Islamic mosques, as Norway has a large Muslim immigrant population. I have no idea about the attendance at those mosques.
  • Rosenkranz-Atelier in Luxembourg : Very low, about 5 to 10 Percent…Almost every village has its own catholic church. Do they seem to have active memberships? Most have only small attendances and mostly elderly people.
  • The Bookworm in Bedfordshire, UK (northwest of London): In our town (population 35, 000) there are [nine churches]…Most active are the Catholic, Church of England, larger Baptist and New Life churches. I’d guess church attendance is about 5%, but a larger number attend occasionally, and the role of the churches in the local community is greater than the numbers attending would suggest.b
  • Puffin Hen in Wales, UK: I personally know only 1 other person my age (38) or younger who goes to church. On average, the local church (Anglican) and the local chapels are attended by those over 60. And not many of them.
  • Lauren in Manchester, England: I would say maybe 2% most of the time. Very very few people. Sundays here are for shopping, not for church.
  • Emily in East London, UK: There are plenty of churches in our area, but they tend to be of the Pentecostal, Evangelical, one-off variety. There are also a couple of mosques and a Sikh temple. My family (me, husband and toddler) go to the local Catholic church around the corner. Most Masses are probably a third full…I would say about 150 on a good day. That said, I am a convert from the Church of England, and we would have been amazed to get that many people in the one service we had on a Sunday, let alone for four Masses.
  • Sarah in Lancashire, UK: Our church (non-denominational) is considered large at 150 members…My mother in law’s church (pentecostal) in a nearby town is mostly attended by immigrants from Africa and not a huge amount of English born people. Our local town’s Catholic church usually looks busy.
  • Andrei in New Zealand: Presbyterian Church at the bottom of my street recently demolished, unused in years. In our town many Churches have been converted to profane use, restaurants etc, one a once thriving Baptist congregation is now a Night Club.
  • Tami in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: We are members of the church of Christ. There are many Christian denominations near where we live, but we have not found a church of Christ. So, we travel a little over an hour away to Dubia to worship with the church there…The Sunday worship service has about 100 people, mostly an expat population of men from India.
  • RI in East Africa: About 80% people attend church of some sort though it is a predominantly catholic society. there are many churches with active membership – think people filling the church and spilling over onto the road.
  • Ana Paula in Minas Gerais, Brazil: I live in the biggest Catholic Country in the world. So the religiousness is strong, is in the blood of the Brazilians. We pray a lot and we go to the church a lot. Each neighborhood here has a church and people attend.
  • Maria in Manila, Philippines: Churches are virtually everywhere in my country, especially in the city. They’re always packed during Sundays and certain feast days. The best part is that the age-range of mass-goers is pretty broad. This is because it’s traditional for all members of the family to go to Mass together–from newborn infants to aging grandparents.
  • Marl in the Philippines: There are churches everywhere and Masses are held pretty close to every hour. The church down the street from our house had mass every 1.5 hours from 8AM to 6PM. Sunday mass is usually packed with people cramming the parking lot (there are speakers out there) and sometimes the street. Membership is very active with entire families usually going. There are certainly no shortages of choir members, eucharistic ministers, etc. for every mass.
  • Eunice in Singapore: Church attendance is actually high in all churches here in Singapore. My parish is always full on Sundays, and this is more or less the same for the other 30 parishes in Singapore. There are also a few dominant megachurches (charismatic protestant churches) which attract a lot of the young people, accounting close to 100, 000 church attendees each Sunday.
  • Elisa in Egypt (from 2006-2008): Egypt is predominantly Muslim, but Coptic Christians make up 9% of the population. Copts are treated very poorly (many around Cairo are garbage collectors and live in “garbage city” which is what it sounds like). Converting religions is very dangerous, particularly converting from Islam. Religion is by birth and is recorded on government documents. Conversion is dangerous both for the person leaving Islam and for anyone who encourages/enables such a move. Egyptian jails are deeply unpleasant. There are a few protestant expatriate churches, with 50 or so nations represented at any given service, though Egyptians were noticeably absent. There was also a small Catholic church in our suburb, catering to expatriates.
  • Nzie in Moscow, Russia: I think church attendance is quite low, but there are many restored Orthodox churches. They don’t seem to have active memberships in Moscow, but there are still several monasteries, and any tourist coming to Russia would see basically see church after church after church…My friend who is Presbyterian, however, can’t go to a Presbyterian church here – they’re banned I think. So she goes to a Baptist church, and to be Baptist in Russia is hard…She said she was Baptist when a student asked, and the student was shocked, and asked her why she didn’t believe in God.
  • Erin in New South Wales, Australia: Attendance varies from church to Church. The charismatic churches tend to have lots of young people. Some Evangelicals have a mixture of age groups, some are simply dying out. The Catholic Church we attend is predominately the over 60 set…The other Catholic Church does have more younger people.
  • Judy in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Many churches, very active, lots of young families. Archdiocese is building secondary schools, rebuilding old ones. Decades of immigration mean we have a very multicultural church here. People say if it was just the previous white Anglo-Saxon population, we’d be dying, but fortunately for those who are devout, that is not the case. I volunteer in RCIA [The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults] and most of our recent inquirers have been Chinese.
  • Anne in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: I live in Kanata (west suburb of Ottawa), and there are ~23 churches here. The ones I know of have active memberships.

At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?

  • Respectful Reader in Norway: If you want to see and hear any secular social gathering (or just lunch in the teachers’ lounge where I work) come to a screeching halt casually mention that you are a Christian, read the Bible or prayed last night. If you want a gathering of Christians to choke on their coffee cake, mention the Virgin Mary or the Pope.
  • Ciska in Belgium: That would be odd and slightly inappropriate. Church and religion are considered to be personal. It’s like suddenly starting to talk about your last bowel movement…You can say “I’ll light a candle for you” or “I’ll think about you” when someone has a hard time, but you can’t say “I’ll pray for you”, even though that’s what you mean.
  • Rosenkranz-Atelier in Luxembourg: It would be most inappropriate, people would label you immediately as sectarian, intolerant, unmodern and seriously weird.
  • Julie in Portugal: It would definitely seem odd. There are typical opinions that are socially acceptable but those are not some of them. Some socially acceptable opinions would be: “you can be spiritual without going to church”…”I like catholic values but I’m into buddhism right now”…”the church has always been against knowledge” (I heard this statement, word for word, at a birthday party last week)…”I believe in science” (therefore, I don’t have faith)…”I’m probably more christian than people that go to church” (meaning: I’m a good person, people that go to church sometimes aren’t).
  • Cheryl in Western Alsace, France : Here in France that would seem very odd. Just read about a new survey that’s been published: only 1 in 3 French people believes in God.
  • B. in Southwestern Germany: It would be considered odd. People who are a bit more knowledgeable would possibly consider the person to be an american-style evangelical.
  • Puffin Hen in Wales, UK: Mention prayer, the Bible or God at a social event? Wouldn’t happen. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t happen again. God is only mentioned in Church on Sunday, and then only by the priest or vicar. And then only during the accepted parameters of the sermon. You can mention that you attend church in a, “When I was on the way to church the other day…” kind of way, so long as you don’t say anything more about it than that.
  • Lizzie in London, UK: In London, it’s fine to mention it – it’s so diverse – but the attitude is very much ‘each to his own’.
  • Sarah in Lancashire, UK: It would seem very odd. I would make people uncomfortable. I do mention church and my beliefs, but very often people don’t really want to talk about it. I usually get comments like, “I hate church”, “Religion causes wars”, “Religious people are bigots”. My daughter was called ‘weird’ by the father of one of her friends when my daughter invited that friend to church.
  • Lauren in Manchester, England: It would be very, very odd and the majority of people would either move away from you very quickly or respond aggressively – when casually mentioning that my weekend plans include Mass, I have been told I am ‘disgusting’ for ‘opposing womens rights and gay rights’, and told that ‘they thought I was more intelligent than that, obviously not!’. Some people in my family have asked me not to mention my faith and have been annoyed when I’ve said something as innocuous as ‘I’ll keep you in my prayers’ to an ill relative.
  • Tami in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The UAE is a Muslim country and Muslim women cover their heads (some with only their face showing, some with only their eyes showing). So if you don’t cover your head, it’s obvious you’re not Muslim and people just assume you’re Christian. I believe if you are a citizen you have to be Muslim, but if you are an expat, you can freely practice your religion.
  • Helen in Trinidad and Tobago: We have a saying in our country that God is a “Trini” so speaking about religion would not be inappropriate. Saying that you are Catholic however will raise eyebrows. Other Christian denominations are normally more accepted.
  • RI in East Africa: Very normal , no one would bat an eyelid.
  • Nzie in Moscow, Russia: I don’t think anyone would be offended, but it’d be unusual. Most people identify with Orthodoxy but don’t practice.
  • Maria in Manila, Philippines: It’s perfectly normal to make statements like the ones you mentioned in social gatherings. Religious expression is not just tolerated here, it’s very much part of our cultural identity. You should see the way we celebrate our major feast days!
  • Marl in the Philippines: This is very common. Discussing problems amongst friends or family or even acquaintances may end with some reference to prayer (e.g. “Let’s continue to pray about it.”) or God’s power and God’s will and it’s not awkward to talk about that at all.
  • An American living in China: With foreigners, it is common for the Evangelical Protestants to talk this way. Among Chinese it is becoming more and more acceptable.
  • Maiki from Peru: I don’t think it is all that odd to mention something from the bible or mention prayer — it is pretty common. Being someone with many regular devotions can be a bit odd, or if you mention it all the time.
  • Paula H. in British Columbia, Canada: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Ooooooh, that’s funny. Okay, I have to stop laughing now. Holy mackeral, we live in a new age paradise and people DO NOT like Jesus very much at all. However, I have a big mouth (and so do some of my friends) and I feel that we HAVE to let people know that we are practising Catholics/Christians and that we are not the demons they think we are.

What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God. Is this the case in your area?

  • Julie in Portugal: Being a “close-minded” strong believer would almost be political suicide in Portugal… maybe in Europe in general. Politicians don’t have to talk about their religious beliefs. Our prime minister is openly gay and that is absolutely not a problem for anyone, even practicing Catholics.
  • Respectful Reader in Norway: There is one political party, The Christian People’s Party (which incidentally just changed its bylaws to allow non-Christians to belong), that speaks openly about religion. Other than this party – which gets about 5.5% of the national votes – religion is a non-subject. NO ONE mentions their private beliefs; and there is a tacit understanding that most intelligent people have distanced themselves from religious myths.
  • Puffin Hen in Wales, UK: To openly admit to having any active faith…would be political suicide. Weird, bigoted, out of date and unable to represent a multicultural community, apparently.
  • Towanda in East Spain: No reference to any belief or practice at all. Politicians avoid to be identified with any religious belief. No approaches to pro-life movements or similar either unless you want to ruin your political career (or you’ve already ruined).
  • B. in Southwestern Germany: Most politicians claim to be Christians. It is normally used as an argument on why they can define what Christianity is. E.g. a few days ago the gay mayor of Berlin said “I’m a Catholic and as such I will tell the pope that the Church has to accept gay marriage when he visits Berlin.”
  • Sarah in Lancashire, UK: God is never mentioned in campaigns in my area. Politicians like to say they are ‘multi-cultural’ or ‘tolerant to all belief systems’.
  • Marija J. in Croatia: The right-center party members usually claim to be Catholic (no evidence of that in any of their decisions). The left-center party members don’t usually claim anything and are perceived as mostly atheist. The current president announced he is agnostic.
  • Maiki from Peru: Most politicians are Catholic or lapsed/non-practicing Catholic. Occasional Evangelicals and Jews also run, I think there is the odd Muslim, too. An atheist candidate would be weird, but not unheard of. I think there are a couple. Religious items are used in swearing in ceremonies (as appropriate), and candidates sometimes attend religious services on important state occasion days. I don’t think being an atheist is political suicide, unless your proposed measures were largely contrary to Catholic values.
  • Andrei in New Zealand: Current Prime Minister is agnostic, his predecessor was Atheist.
  • Sue in Saitama, Japan (near Tokyo): Generally, religion is a non-issue, unless you are Sokka Gakkai, which is a Buddhist sect that has a fair amount of political influence. I think most Japanese are wary of outspoken or passionate religion, though, so they are kept in check – so far. I don’t think there are many Christians involved in politics over here, really.
  • RI in East Africa: Politicians are quite open about their beliefs , catholic , muslim etc.
  • Nzie in Moscow, Russia: I don’t think people care or are that aware…I don’t think atheism is very common, just apathy. I think being atheist could be viewed negatively.
  • Anne in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Anyone who acknowledges an active belief in God, as the practicing Christian sort, gets the snarky treatment, or the “well, we know THAT is an outdated and odd belief system.” Politicians in Canada don’t trot out their Bibles and beliefs in God and have it received as a good thing, put it that way.
  • Amy in New Brunswick, Canada: I would say that most of them are Christian. I know for a fact that our mayor is Catholic and helps at church functions, and many of the bigger names in town attend church.
  • Barbara in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: The more a politician discusses his religious affiliations in public the more suspect he is. He may be considered too “American” (Stockwell Day comes to mind) Catholic politicians –there have been many– are criticized for listening to the pope at all (Chretien for example) and must keep their religion to themselves. It’s fine to have a burial mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, but don’t question the sacredness of abortion, gay marriage or contraception.

How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

  • Catrin in South Wales, UK: Many, But I move in homeschooling/Catholic circles. Most people seem to have two, but 3 or 4 is not uncommon. Larger families of 5 or 6 are usually “blended” families.
  • Kmo in Western Norway: Not many large families. Norway is an extremely expensive place to live, although many social services are provided by the government. However, most women work, in my experience. Norway has a very strong history of gender equality in the workforce.
  • Sarah in Oviedo, Spain: The young people are almost nonexistent here, both in the Church and in the country at large. Spain has one of the most problematic declining populations, and last week my host mother went out of her way to point out a woman walking down the street with three children. This is the most I have seen in any one family since my arrival; even two children is rare. Many locals that I have met have expressed shock at my “large” family (I have three siblings).
  • Julie in Portugal: I know very few families with more than two!…Marriage is generally viewed as a limit on freedom, people get married very late (around the age of 30), careers are a priority and the job situations is difficult so it is hard for people to get a steady income. In general people have two, one or no kids so families with more than four are very unusual.
  • Lauren in Manchester, England: When I have talked positively about being open to life/using NFP, I have had Catholic women respond negatively or tell me that ‘you’re not in the real world’…I truly think that there is no culture of life in the Catholic churches here at all – I feel very alone.
  • Larissa in London, UK: There are a lot of large families but they’re Muslim families. A typical “Christian” family here has 2-3 children.
  • Rebekka in Copenhagen, Denmark: Two kids is normal. Four kids is unusual but not unheard of. If you have six kids, you’re probably a Muslim.
  • Respectful Reader in Norway: Although the fertility rate in Norway is less than the US’s 2.06 children per woman, Norway does have one of the higher fertility rates in Europe (1.77), so families with more than two children are not that uncommon. We have friends who have seven children (extremely unusual) and this often causes negative reactions, with strangers asking if it’s this family’s responsibility to single-handedly populate the world.
  • The Bookworm in Bedfordshire, UK (northwest of London): Many families with three – two or three is the norm. Four is less common but not at all unusual. More than four is unusually large. One of the other mothers commented in the school playground last week that more families seem to be having third and fourth children, whereas a few years ago most stopped at two.
  • Marija J. in Croatia: Two children is common, four very rare, six considered way too much.
  • Pat in Rome, Italy: Babies in general were rare in Rome. Near my apartment was a baby supply store, and I never once saw anyone in it. It would be amazing to see a family of 4 or 6 walk down the street.
  • Tami in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Larger families are very common here, but mainly among the non-western Muslims. Western expat families still typically have only about two children. However, because the country is predominately Muslim, that means that stores, restaurants, etc. are very used to seeing larger families and are very welcoming to them. No one freaks out when you walk your four kids (all 6 and younger) into a sit down restaurant. The staff is always very helpful and accommodating. It’s a very family oriented culture.
  • Sue in Saitama, Japan (near Tokyo): We definitely stick out with our four, but we stick out in general as well. We have one family at our church with six kids, and I have known a few others with five or six kids – even one with eight – but they are a rarity. Most families in our area, including at church, have one or two. We get lots of positive comments about our family at church, but outside of church the most common comment I hear is, “wow, that’s tough!”
  • Erin in New South Wales, Australia: Lots, this is the country so many families have 3-4 children. And I know a number of families with an average of 6. Just depends on what circles you move in though. With no. 9 on the way we would be one of the biggest families in town now, I know of 3 other larger families than us.
  • Cath in Sydney, Australia: In Canberra and here in Sydney, people cannot BELIEVE that we have 4 kids – and that is just 4!
  • Eunice in Singapore: A family of 4 won’t be too unusual and would be very welcomed by the government as we’re facing an ageing population also. There are now more families with more than 6 children and they’re usually Catholic so while it may get some stares, many would actually applaud their effort and respect these parents!
  • Bears2Cross in Beer Sheva, Israel: Four children wouldn’t be unheard of; with six, it would be assumed that you were an Orthodox Jew (or a Bedouin!). To me it seems that people like big families, but it’s normal for people to wait until after two years of army and four or more years of University to even think of getting married and starting a family, so infertility is a big problem. My husband’s colleagues in his Ph.D. program were always shocked to learn that he’d already been married for over a decade and had three kids at age 34! Ethnicity also plays a big role in what number of children is “normal” for a family.
  • RI in East Africa: Almost all. The national average is 6.5. Though in the capital the trend is growing towards only two. A family of four would fit right in and no one would bat an eyelid if they continued to have children.
  • Helen in Trinidad and Tobago: We are a family with six children, which is unusual. We are few and far between. We get all the customary comments. Are you Catholic? How are you going to send your children to university? How do you manage? etc. etc. etc. Very few people now have more than two children.
  • Elisa in Egypt (from 2006-2008): Large families are very normal – often Egyptian Muslims will keep having children until they finally have a boy. Egyptians love children.
  • Maria in Manila, Philippines: I think the better question to ask is, “How many families do you know have LESS than two children?” Because believe it or not, there’s not a lot of those at all. I’d say the average number of children per Filipino family is 3-4. Two generations ago, it was probably twice that. I guess you could call us blessed, and I would agree! But recently, the government’s been weary of these numbers, calling it “overpopulation”.
  • Ana Paula in Minas Gerais, Brazil: It is rare a family with more than two children. The new families who have more than two, usually is a poorest one, who live in the borderline of the society. Families are going to be smallest over here. The thought is: “If I have only one child, I will be able to give him or her My Best: I will be able to pay a good school, I will be able to send my child to the United States, to see Disneyland, etc.”
  • Margaret, whose husband is from Ethiopia: Ethiopians I have met are very positive about large families, but the trend is towards smaller families, and people have found me somewhat odd. A white American woman who *wants* to have a large family?? Unheard of.
  • Barbara in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: In spite of CBC trying to promote Childfreeness as the new black, having lots of kids doesn’t usually get much negative attention. I grew up in what might be considered a large family by today’s standards and never heard a peep about it. Mind you, Canadians hold politeness as such a value that most would refrain from commenting, even if they had something to comment on. This of course excludes Quebec. Quebeckers went from having 10 kid families to having no kids at all, now the government in that province is trying to pay women to have them, while the quebecoise feminists are freaking out at the merest suggestion that women have babies.
  • Emily in Alberta, Canada: As my husband found out at work, recent immigrants (particularly from Africa) are much more likely to see a large family as a positive good (a wealth of children). He says that it’s not that those born and bred in Canada have made negative comments but rather that they tend to be completely bewildered at the very idea wanting a large family.

What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

  • Cheryl in Western Alsace, France: Christianity as a tradition. Sort of a fading, historic protestant faith.
  • B. in Southwestern Germany: Agnosticism for people of christian origin, Islam for the rest.
  • Carolyn in Graz, Austria: None.
  • Ciska in Belgium: Officialy, Catholicism is the dominant belief system (in Belgium, 70% is baptised in the Catholic Church, in the area where I live about 85 %). Most of the Catholics aren’t practising. Most people believe in something higher and that they’ll go to heaven or at least that there is something like heaven after life. They try to live a good life and largely endorse christian morals and values.
  • Rosenkranz-Atelier in Luxembourg: Agnosticism and a critical distance to the catholic church.
  • Rebekka in Copenhagen, Denmark: I live in an “immigrant quarter” – there are lots of Muslims, women in hijab, and so on. Other than that it’s probably atheism/could-care-less.
  • Cathleen in the Netherlands: I would describe this area as culturally Catholic; with beautiful churches the center of every town. Crucifixes and statues and small shrines are everywhere, but are little more than parts of the decor. There is a beautiful crucifix not too far from where we live, but Jesus’ arm has been shattered for some time and there seems to be no one interested in repairing it. It saddens me every time I see it.
  • Kmo in Western Norway: I’m not sure, but I think many people consider themselves Agnostic or Humanist. Norway is a very secular country, despite there being a state-run religion of which most are officially members. Wikipedia describes a poll that found that only 20% of Norwegians considered religion important to their lives and only 5% attended church on a weekly basis. That sounds about right based on my experience. Among teens and young adults, there is also a percentage that consider themselves Pagans or Satanists, which is closely tied to a particular musical scene (black metal). The black metal scene was linked to a number of church burnings in Norway in the 90’s, mostly of very old wooden churches that were historical landmarks (so sad!).
  • Emily in East London, UK: Muslim. Although that may well be because their practice is more noticable as many women wear hijab or burkas. There are lots of Eastern European immigrants in this area, but I have seen little evidence of them in our church. As for the ‘indiginous’ population, I would say agnostic. Most British people that I know would call themselves Church of England in the same way that I tick the ‘white-British’ box on forms.
  • Larissa in London, UK: Islam or atheism. As in, I live in an area with a high Muslim population but outside of that most people are atheists with some cultural Christianity whacked in for good measure.
  • Catrin in South Wales, UK: Secularism mixed with general Christian secularism. Living in the Welsh Valleys people are more traditionally Christian than in other areas of the UK.
  • Puffin Hen in Wales, UK: Life boils down to making and spending money, having stuff, and – at all costs – not letting anyone know you cannot afford something.
  • Lauren in Manchester, England: Shopping. For devout people: Muslim, smattering of Catholics/Jehovah’s witnesses/independent Evangelicals.
  • Sarah in Lancashire, UK: Apathy.
  • Andrei in New Zealand: Indifference.
  • Marija J. in Croatia: Cultural/lapsed Catholicism. Most people would say they believe in God, but anyone who takes the Church seriously is considered weird. The actual belief system would probably be materialism.
  • Sue in Saitama, Japan (near Tokyo): Most Japanese say they don’t really have a religion, but they practice various Shinto/Buddhist customs to cover the bases. Mostly consumerism and education rule, but the high suicide rate betrays the desperation many people feel.
  • RI in East Africa: A lot of people are catholic – though many are attracted by the pentecostal churches still christianity dominates.
  • Erin in New South Wales, Australia: This is the country so demographically mostly Anglo-Saxon background. Many might say Christian or Catholic, but many would not practice. Also a growing number of atheists, some New Age. Shops still do close though for Good Friday and Christmas Day.
  • Ana Paula in Minas Gerais, Brazil: We have faith in our blood. The atheism is rare or it is too hidden.
  • An American living in China: A mixture of Buddhism/Taoism/Ancestorism. Particularly in my part of Beijing, ancestor homes and tombs (sometimes both barely amounting to a pile of dirt) are hallowed ground. Tombs are swept, cleaned off, and retamped every year on a special holiday for that occassion. Beijing Homes often bear lucky images, at a minumum the word for blessings (fu), as well as images of Buddha or Guanyin or heroic near deities from Chinese mythologized history, like Cao Cao.
  • Bears2Cross in Beer Sheva, Israel: Most are Jewish in the cultural sense. They believe in God in pretty vague terms, but don’t do much to practice their faith. Sadly, they are also open to any kind of “spirituality” and don’t see any conflict between Judaism and the New Age. Interest in Eastern religions is rampant among the younger people especially.
  • Maiki from Peru: Catholicism by in large. Evangelicalism is becoming more common among upper-class people, but for a long time it was seen as a populist phenomenon. Jews are also sort of common. Non-practicing Catholics are also very common.
  • Sarah in Ottawa, Canada: I’d say agnostic, or culturally Christian. Secularism is all over the place.
  • Anne in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: My area of Kanata, is very multicultural. There are a lot of immigrants here, and the dominant belief system seems to be shifting to probably a split between Christianity (professed and practiced) and Islam. There is a large Muslim community here in Kanata North.
  • Barbara in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: West Coasters are still all about the new-age. Even Christian churches are infusing their messages and practices with “new earth consciousness” hippie BS that dilutes faith to nothing except you can pray, do yoga and have all the sex you want. However this is seen more in Vancouver and in some ways Victoria.
  • Amy in New Brunswick, Canada: Oh, Christian for sure.
  • Catherine in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Atheism. And Vancouverites are known to be very cynical in general, so it doesn’t help.
  • Paula H. in British Columbia, Canada: Nothingism. With a little bit of new age and a lot of pot smoking thrown in. Oh, and lots of little Buddha statues in people’s gardens.

Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

  • Julie in Portugal: Statistics show that 97% of Portuguese people are Catholic. Anyone that lives here knows that isn’t true. Although most people will nominally call themselves Catholic and get married through the Church, a very reduced percentage will go to Catholic mass every Sunday. Of those that go to Catholic mass every Sunday, a very low percentage will have a basic understanding of the Bible or even believe in Jesus and the Church’s mission in carrying on his work…I think indifference is slowly fading, as people are taking stands on both sides. Non-christians are becoming more hostile toward christian views, crucifixes are being taken off public walls, people are not marrying through the Church as much. Christians are forced to understand what they believe if they want to believe it, seeing as they have to defend it more. I think this is good!
  • Rebekka in Copenhagen, Denmark: Occasionally there is a media freak-out about young people of Danish ethnicity converting to Islam. There are lots of atheists or members of the Danish church who don’t care and just want a church wedding. Happily, though, people keep joining the Catholic church in a small but steady stream.
  • Elizabeth in St. Andrews, Scotland: Generally, religious apathy is on the rise. The Catholic Church is definitely growing well – St Andrews typically provides something like 1/4 of Scotland’s priestly vocations…This is is a bit specific to Scotland, but I think there is a bit more integration and less sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants, at least where I was. When I first met my boyfriend’s family, they had never met a Catholic before, and they still ask me loads of questions (including, courtesy of his younger brother, what would happen if the Pope got nuclear weapons?) but they are very welcoming, and I think his mum is so pleased he is dating a Christian that it doesn’t seem to be a problem.
  • John in Edinburgh, Scotland: I see fewer people sitting on the fence, and among young people they either are firmly atheist or firmly whatever religion they adhere to. Fewer people nowadays seem “unsure” or “undecided” than what I remember previously.
  • Respectful Reader in Norway: There seems to be such gaping need over here – troubled kids are breaking the backs of the school system, more and more children and teenagers are getting ADHD diagnoses and being medicated, there are long waiting lines to see psychologists…Norwegians seem to be looking for their answers in the fields of medicine and psychology, and of late, New Age. The state-paid bishops and priests have been coerced into some kind of toothless submission, no matter how sincere their personal beliefs may be.
  • B. in Southwestern Germany: Compared to twenty years ago, I can make two observations: The people who go to Church are still the same. Twenty years ago, only people over 60 went to Church, today, it’s only people over 80. The muslims are becoming more religious. When I was in school, only old muslim women wore veils. Today, it is common for muslim women of all age to veil.
  • Rosenkranz-Atelier in Luxembourg: Less religious.
  • Sarah in Oviedo, Spain: Overall, the faith of the country definitely seems rooted in its aging population, and I worry for the future of the Church here in the decades to come if there are no youth to carry it forward.
  • Carolyn in Graz, Austria: Less. Young people move in together surprisingly soon and that is the norm. Marriage to most is ‘just a piece of paper’. I had a girl on the train say to me once, “Americans are obsessed with marriage”. I think she meant more the wedding craziness too (which I agree with her), but also that we still believe in marriage as a whole.
  • Lizzie in London, UK: The climate in the UK (as a Catholic) has definitely changed since the Pope’s visit last September – I know many Catholics who now feel we have a legitimate place in society and we aren’t seen as crazy people with strange beliefs. The Pope was such an incredible example of dignity, respect, kindness when he was here and the national press moved from outrage over his visit to respect by the end of his time here. Among some quarters there was almost an awe over how holy, intelligent and dignified he is. There is an extremely strong and vocal humanist/atheist voice here (Richard Dawkins et al) but there seems to be a rising discomfort with their intolerance among people of faith and also of no faith. They are rapidly being seen as fundamentalists themselves – becoming the very people they are trying to denounce.
  • Emily in East London, UK: There seem to be more openly religious people and some churches, for example Holy Trinity Brompton, which appeals to young, wealthy London professionals, are very popular. However, British society as a whole moves more and more towards secularism. A lot of comedians and media commentators are strongly atheist and this is seen as an intellectual achievement. It also seems to be fine to mock Christianity whereas other religions are considered to be off-limits.
  • The Bookworm in Bedfordshire, UK (northwest of London): I’d say Christianity is pretty much holding its own. Numbers attending church may have declined a bit in the 18 years I have lived here, but not dramatically. The churches I know best seem to have a good cross-section of ages, including younger people and families with children.
  • Puffin Hen in Wales, UK: Religion is rapidly progressing towards being treated with utmost suspicion and contempt, the source of all conflict, etc. In the large urban areas of England there is a growth in large, evangelical, event type churches but this is not typical of the general population and certainly not in the provinces.
  • Sarah in Lancashire, UK: A lot less. I don’t know anyone outside my friends from my own church who go to church, except my husband’s parents and people from my husband’s work (a Christian charity).
  • Lauren in Manchester, England: In my lifetime (almost 30), I have never known more than a handful of people be religious. I’d say the trend is now of growing active agression against the few Christians left.
  • Pat in Rome, Italy: As time goes on, it seems the religiousness is becoming more and more ancient history!
  • Andrei in New Zealand: Falling away from the faith…The Catholic Church is holding its own though with more functioning Parishes in our town than any other denomination despite being nominally a minority Faith – in our town Presbyterianism is supposedly the major denomination and certainly was fifty years ago. The Catholic Church probably has more people in Church on a given Sunday than the others combined but in actual numbers they are probably in the same place as they were fifty years ago.
  • Nzie in Moscow, Russia: I think people are more openly identifying with religion. Also, there is state support for Orthodoxy. On Orthodox holidays, the metro system here stays open later to accomodate people coming home from services that go late into the night. Also, nowadays, many restaurants and grocery stores feature menus and foods that are approved for Lent, for example. Some traditions are coming to the fore, such as a cold dip last month for the Baptism of the Lord, and some are very popular such as Maslenitsa (butter week – before Lent begins). Overall I think there is an increasing association with it, and more children are being baptised, people wear crosses sincerely, but don’t practice much.
  • Erin in New South Wales, Australia: Less religious.
  • An American living in China: The government has been loosening up and even encouraging traditional Chinese beliefs. When I moved here, Qing Ming (tomb sweeping day) was not a legal holiday. Now it is, and most people get three days in a row vacation for this holiday. Same with Mid-Autumn (Dragon Boat) Festival. There are also many educated people getting more interested in understanding the nature of belief. One friend of mine has been growing in her Buddhist devotion. She and her daughter even attended a Buddhist Camp over the New Year Holiday. She asks me questions about Christianity, even reads my Chinese-English Bible when she comes to my house, but she is getting more strongly attached to Buddhism. Christianity is definitely also growing here as well.
  • Sue in Saitama, Japan (near Tokyo): Unfortunately, things are pretty stagnate, or worse. Many churches are filled with elderly people. Not a few Protestant churches are without a pastor, and some Catholic parishes even are without a regular priest. I was talking to a Franciscan brother not long ago about young men choosing a religious vocation. He said that the low birthrate has made it so hard. Especially if someone comes from a non-Christian home, and is an only son, he is going to face an awful lot of opposition if he decides on a religious vocation. He said that a lot of young men end up leaving due to the pressure from their families. We need lots of prayer over here!
  • Cath in Sydney and Canberra, Australia: We can definitely say that atheism is on the rise [in Canberra], which is a definite change from the agnosticism of previous years. As this is the seat of the decision making and law making, this is concerning.
  • Elisa in Egypt (from 2006-2008): More and more Muslim women began covering their heads while we lived there – making it all the harder for Coptic Christian women to avoid notice/harassment. I’m concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood taking over from a moderate President Mubarak. Things will be much worse for Christian missionaries (already illegal) and Coptic Christians if that happens. The entire power structure and stability of the Middle East will be affected as well. Pray for Egypt!
  • Helen in Trinidad and Tobago: We tend to follow the trends in the developed countries in the world, especially the United States and we are therefore becoming more and more materialistic and secular. While less people may not be practicing their faith, the majority do believe in God. We have a church, mosque or temple at nearly every street corner and we are one of the few countries in the world where abortion is still illegal.
  • Bears2Cross in Beer Sheva, Israel: Definitely towards less religious. From the Jewish perspective, in our nine years one very noticeable change was in how much traffic there was on the Sabbath. Our Christian friends from the North would tell us about how much more religious their villages had been in the past as well. Their churches are still well-attended, but the cultural observance of many Christian traditions has gone by the wayside.
  • Maiki from Peru: I think there is a rise in Catholics that are not practicing admitting they are atheist/agnostic, when before I think that was unheard of. Also a rise in Evangelicalism and Mormonism. I think as a result, those who *are* Catholic are becoming more informed and solidified in their faith — there seems to be more theological discussion in Church.
  • Marl in the Philippines: The trend that I do notice is that when Filipinos come to the States they tend to be less religious and Mass is all of a sudden boring, probably because it doesn’t have the same hoopla that it does back home where mass is truly a celebration. Unless a friend’s baby is getting baptized, church is an option. Another trend I notice is that Protestantism has been making an active push to convert Catholics and have been very aggressive in their preaching. Many have been vocal enough to say that they are anti-Catholic as opposed to just pro-Protestantism. Atheism and Agnosticism has been creeping up as well mostly because of lack of education or just poor or lack of Catechism.
  • Eunice in Singapore: People are definitely seem to become more religious as I see in my friends especially.
  • Sarah in Ottawa, Canada: Less and less religious, unfortunately. I see so many people searching for “authenticity” or “striving to be one with nature”, or SOMETHING to find meaning. It makes me so sad for them, as they have such a God-shaped hole in their lives.
  • Barbara in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: Actually its moving in both directions at once. Orthodoxy is finding new blood out here, the Catholic community in Vancouver is vibrant and active, the Evangelical community as well. Both denominations seem to have quite a lot of young members. The Anglican church is graying at an alarming rate, but secularism and new-atheism is also building among 20 and 30 somethings. It´s going to be an interesting country in a decade or so.
  • C. in Southern Ontario, Canada: Among those I know, definitely more religious (most of my friends are between 20 and 30).
  • Christian H. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Increasingly secular and increasingly anti-religious (these are different things). Again, caveats for my academic context.
  • Alison T. in Southwestern Ontario, Canada: I think the evangelical church is growing. People say this is at the expense of the Catholic and Anglican churches, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m a university student, and there seem to be a lot of young people involved in their religion. Also, I’m a convert to Christianity from agnosticism, and I know several other people my age (early 20s) like this.

Fascinating stuff. I know that reading these comments has given me a lot of food for thought. What was your reaction to these comments? What was there anything particularly surprising? Anything you’d like to hear more about?


  1. MrsDarwin

    Amazing work, Jen.

    • Hillcrest Cottage

      I live in Little Rock, Arkansas (USA). George Barna conducted a very intense study several years ago that concluded that Little Rock was the most evangelical city per capita (meaning in proportion to our total population, not in numbers) than any city in America.

      We are EATEN ALIVE with the disease of American capitalistic Christianity which is very corporate, very consumer-driven, and very performance-oriented!

      Is this “Church”:
      A local congregation recently had a large gathering of its 3 campuses at the local arena where American Idol winner Kris Allen led the singing part (I won’t even call it worship) of the service. It resembled American Idol-worship more than Christ-worship as the camera lights flashed continually throughout his time on the stage.

      In our town, people come to church to “see the show” and to consume the ministries and see what’s new at the coffee bar which is fully-staffed and seriously better than Starbucks.

      Our pastors are “hologram” pastors beamed into the “venues”.

      One church in our town recently completed a $58 MILLION (Yes… milliion) campus! Do you have any idea what raising that kind of money has done to “dry-up” the Christian resources for little ministries like the one we have. But, a huge cruise ship pays no attention to its large wake capsizing all small vessels by which it passes. Do you think this congregation was “kingdom-minded’ when they decided to build such a facility?

      My husband has a 4 year THM from a very prestigious seminary, and we have been in full-time church ministry since 1986. We quit our traditional, evangelical American mega-church when we were told that every person walking in the church door was worth “X” amount of money.

      Now we have a “mission” (meaning it can support itself and depends on the investments of the Christian community) in our artsy-liberal mid-town neighborhood. We believe VERY strongly that God is calling the Church back to its roots of not “going” to church but to “being” the church. He wants us to experience community and relationship with both Him and each other. If we are to be “excellent” at one thing, I know He wants us to be excellent in LOVING ONE ANOTHER… not in real estate purchases, music, multi-media, food courts, podcasts, websites, etc. etc.

      The American evangelical church is cluttered with too much noise and too much stuff. Kinda like my basement, garage, and attic.

      I want to challenge your readers to answer this question: How can I SERVE rather than BE SERVED. How can I GIVE rather than CONSUME? How can I BE the church… every day of the week… rather than GO TO church… once or twice or three times a week?

      Check out what God is doing in our very tiny universe:
      “Vintage” Christianity for the “Next” generation.

      • Hillcrest Cottage

        Sorry… had a typo above.. I meant to say we have a “mission” church which can NOT

  2. Kristine

    Wow…Honestly, hearing of the decline in religion makes me sad. Hopefully, we will see a “New Springtime” as pope JPII said.

  3. Mandi

    Wow, this makes me very grateful to live in the United States! I would have thought that “traditionally Catholic” countries, like France, Spain, Portugal, etc. would be much different. I appreciate that our politicians can be faithful without committing political suicide! I really was shocked at how different the truth is from my perception of the religious climate throughout the world.

    • Jessica

      “I appreciate that our politicians can be faithful without committing political suicide!”

      I agree to an extent, but I think it can also be political suicide in the United States not to proclaim a faith. I would argue this can lead to false pronouncements of faith and politicians twisting religion to serve their own ends. So it’s two sides of the same coin–pressure to conform to expectations.

  4. Jessica

    This is probably my own bias (or that of your readers who responded), but it seems like religion, large families, and happiness go hand-in-hand across these countries. People mentioned countries with a lack of religion as being one focused on consumerism and feeling kind of empty. And it seems that places were everyone is open to religion and welcoming of large families are places of less judgment and criticism. Again, this is probably an idealistic view, but that is the sense I got from reading these.

    I also noticed that people living in different parts of large countries (such as Canada) had somewhat different takes. I would imagine that the answers vary greatly for Americans depending on what part of the United States you’re in. I’d be interested to know how American readers see their area and the country as a whole–I bet there would be wildly varying answers.

    • Lana

      Actually, I am in India at the moment for a brief time. It would seem like this would be one of those highly religious and non-consumerist places that would have more large families, but sadly, there have been political maneuverings over the last decades that have made sure there are not (think: forced sterilizations).

  5. Amanda

    am I alone in thinking of this verse- Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.-2 Peter 3:3

  6. Kara

    This is, for the most part, really, really sad. I knew Europe was a mess when it came to Christianity, but wow.

  7. Jenelle

    Reactions – I agree with what people said about the UK. I’ve only been here since September so I didn’t comment earlier. It was hard to find a church (there is actually one within walking distance) and we got odd looks from reception when we asked about where we could go to Mass.

    On the other hand, our church does a pretty good job of involving the community. There is an active 20-35 yr old group that constantly advertises outings. We’ve been to two different time masses and both have mixed crowds. However, one of the churches nearby just closed so the parishes were combined.

  8. Kat

    This makes me so thankful to be a young adult living in the US who is in love with Jesus.

    • Sarah

      My reaction was exactly the same, Kat. Over all, this post made me very sad. It does seem like we are in the “last days,” when the masses are turning away from God. I’m praying for revival in my city and the U.S. I need to pray for revival everywhere.

  9. Camille

    It is sad. As a girl born in Poland but raised in the northeast US, I know that the Polish people are deeply Catholic, but growing more secular quickly. At least they aren’t quite as far gone as the Brits or French though. It is truly sad that the land formerly known as Christendom has fallen so far!

  10. Jackie

    I think Julie from Portugal has a great point when she is talking about secularization. It’s easy to look at a country going through a secular phase like taking crosses off walls and think “how terrible, they are loosing the faith they’ve always had.” But if you look at it as a way of moving from nominal, traditional, or habitual Christianity to people developing personal and real faiths, then that’s a good thing!

    • Cléo

      My thoughts exactly. And that applies to Belgium too.
      Catholics (and protestants alike) are pressed to dig deeper an find personal faith.

  11. Theresa - Respectful Reader

    Jennifer – you ask if there is anything more your readers would like to hear about. I would love to know how other committed Catholics/Christians sustain their faith when everything seems to be deteriorating? How do they experience community in the spiritual isolation many of them – including myself – report? Do they discern God’s voice and will in their exile? Do they feel called to be where they are, and if so – what responsibility do they feel they have to shed light in the increasing darkness?

    • Marija J.

      This is a really good question and I hope Jennifer picks it up for a follow-up survey. For me, these comments are a great way to learn. Answers from the northern and western Europe have been particularly chilling.

      • Theresa - Respectful Reader

        Marija, Puffin Hen and Cheryl: I replied to your posts, but somehow my reply ended up at the bottom of the entire discussion. Ooops.

    • Puffin Hen

      The internet is a strange creature and much that it offers is dangerous and to be avoided, but I do believe that God has used it as an incomparable tool of encouragement and support in my life. It is important, of course, to be aware of the dangers of getting too sucked in to a virtual world at the expense of living fully in the community in which you belong, but the “virtual community” of Christians online – particularly in the States – sustains me in my faith, encourages in the alternative way of life that we have chosen (by that I just mean – stay at home Mum and homeschooler) and informs me like nothing else. I honestly don’t know that I do feel God’s will in this exile and I suspect that I am a poor servant. I simply seek to live my life as I feel called and hope that it speaks to others.

    • Cheryl

      Your questions are interesting ones. My husband and I do often feel very alone. Fortunately, we are part of a vibrant community in a nearby city who prays for, visits and helps to sustain us. We are also part of Alongside Ministries International, which, as a network of folks like us working in Europe, provides us with a real family of like-minded people with whom we can share deeply and pray. Do we feel called to be here? DEFINITELY. If we weren’t called, how could we do it? And not just that, but being here is what gives us deep joy and satisfaction. And we believe that our being here, just BEING, does shed light in increasing darkness. God can cause these dry bones to live again.
      Also, I want to qualify what I said in my comment before. The statistics I gave about atheism are real, but in the 17 years I have been in France, I have seen renewal in churches, and most especially in the Catholic church here. God is doing some amazing things, and we’re so glad to be a part of it!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Wow, Theresa, this is a great question. I hope to be able to write about that soon. Meanwhile, you and others in similar situations are in my prayers!

  12. Anth

    This post is so interesting. Thanks for putting it together!

  13. Catherine Lucia

    Really fascinating, especially from East Africa, Egypt, Trinidad & Tobago, and the general European consensus. It seems to reflect the larger trend that Christianity and Catholicism are declining most in Europe and growing most in Africa while staying basically the same in the Americas.

  14. Theresa in Alberta

    reading all of this has made me very sad 🙁 I can see where us Catholics are going to be driven underground again!

  15. Ellie

    I really appreciated reading all of the responses — fascinating! Thank you for pulling it together in a post like this. I, too, would be very interested to read what folks across various areas of the US would have to share regarding these sorts of questions.

  16. Tara Meghan

    Neat! I am from western Canada, and the comments from the BC/Alberta area were spot on. There is a very weird dichotomy of (1) vehemently anti-Christian “all beliefs are awesome except for that awful Christianity stuff” and (2) a booming church population of all ages and ethnicities in the Catholic and some evangelist denominations…my Catholic parish is sardine-packed every Sunday and has a respectable showing at the Wednesday evening daily mass as well. There’s a perpetual adoration chapel about a 25 minute drive from my house, and our church has a fair number of 3 and 4 children families, and one or two 5 children families (that’s as big as we get out here…3 is considered big in BC. I was one of three siblings, and we were the biggest family I knew of growing up).

    • Christian H

      Yes. I must agree. It’s hard for me to tell from with the university, but it does seem like there is growth in both religious and non-religious populations, though particularly areas/demographics/denominations are seeing decrease. Maybe there are fewer fence-sitters?

    • Wsquared

      I was especially interested to read the comments from Vancouver, British Columbia, because that’s originally where I’m from. I currently reside in Philadelphia, PA.

      Philadelphia is pretty strong in its Catholic church attendance, as are most of the suburbs, I think. My parish in downtown Philadelphia is always full, as is my fiance’s out in rural PA.

      In Vancouver, when I left it, there was reduced Mass attendance, but still a respectable showing. The Italian Mass I sometimes attended was always full, but this was mostly the older folks. I’m glad to hear, though, that Catholicism has a booming parish population.

      I’m not surprised at the vehemently anti-Christian “all beliefs are awesome except for that awful Christianity stuff” part. It was certainly true in college and in grad school, where it was a bit of mainstay and almost a credential among some.

  17. jen ambrose

    Thank you for putting all these together. Incredible.

  18. Lisa V.

    Well keeping in mind this is the opinion of a select few in each country, I’m shocked and realy sad at the lack of religious belief all over the world. I never expected some countries to be indifferent.

  19. Christian H

    I want to simply reiterate that all of our views of religious participation are skewed based on what demographic we are a part of. I am from academia; this makes a huge difference, I think. Canada, at least, is very heterogenous. It makes ground-level assessments hard to make with any accuracy.

  20. tgz

    Oh God, there’s another Portuguese here!

    I’ll answer (even if I’m late to the party) here:

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    In my city (one of the largest in Portugal) there are actually more than just the usual Catholic, Jehovah Witnesses and Theology-of-Prosperity-Church (Julie, I suppose you know what denomination I am talking about. All Evangelicals I know HATE that denomination for calling themselves Evangelical too).

    Catholic church attendance: low, though slowly increasing in urban areas after the historic low of the 1990s and early 2000s. Mostly elderly people. Some young couples with children. Some people of other ages. In my urban area, the number of adult converts and reverts is slowly but steadily increasing (I mean, now we have adult Baptisms more than once a year 🙂 ).

    Some of the Protestant churches I know: attendance has been decreasing now that they are not seen as “fringe”. Still, mostly small, active communities.

    Active Catholic communities: well, in parishes there’s mostly a lot of people who just go to Mass there, and a small number of people who are involved in various activities (cathechism, youth groups, prayer groups, help for the poor, for the sick, for the elderly, lectors and choir, acholits, etc.). So, mostly either almost-non-involved or actually a bit active in the parish.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?

    Well, what Julie said. But… I do that. People usually don’t become defensive when I do that, mostly because as a certified geekette (Engineering/Science) most my friends and friends of friends are either atheist/agnostic or active believers. And curious people. So, they look at me like it’s odd and then start asking me questions and clarification about what do we believe. On the other hand, in a mixed group where I don’t know people, I tend to behave like Julie described. Unless someone says something outrageous about the Church.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God. Is this the case in your area?

    Politicians freely claim to be atheist/agnostic. Some politicians claim to be Christian/Catholic but I am not sure if they do go to Church. I know one politician (atheist) whose wife is known to be a fervent Catholic (though I don’t always agree with her). I am not sure our PM is openly gay as Julie said, though. He has been rumored to be gay, but then he has also been rumored to be dating a female journalist (rumors said her newspaper was spinning news on his favor). He is divorced. Some center-right politicians (our political parties have no equivalent to the USA ones) have been known to be seen coming from Mass. Two decades ago there were more known politicians who frequented Mass.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I actually know a couple of large families. In my neighbourhood, besides the elderly, it is actually reasonably common to see a family with 3 or 4 children. But if we consider my whole city, or the whole country, it is rare. People have 1-2 children or even none. One thing Julie didn’t mention is that houses here are smaller than in the USA and rents are almost as expensive as buying a house (sometimes more expensive). And it is now seen as unreasonable to have children and not be able to provide a spacious house, a nice car, etc. People do have precarious jobs, in their defense, and for many couples they can only survive if both have a full-time job and some extra work as well.

    In many parts of the country, a family of four will be unusual, but not seen as shocking. A family with 6 children, unless you’re clearly from another country or from one of the old noble families, is seen as eccentric at best and as offensive at worse. Of course, not everybody thinks like that, but the majority does.

    About NFP: if you know very scientific-minded people and provide the scientific papers, or if you are talking with some more informed doctors, you can actually have a conversation about it. Otherwise, people will assume it’s the calendar and make fun of you. Simple as that. Even a lot of otherwise practising and active Catholics. The Catholic teaching about sexuality has been so deformed by the media that even many active Catholics have no idea what the Church really teaches and why.

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area? Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    As Julie said, in the census the majority of people declares themselves Catholic. I believe that the most recent number isn’t 97%, though, but something around 86-89%. The number of people who recognize themselves in public as atheist/agnostic has increased a lot. Most people say they are “non-practising Catholic”. This usually means they were baptized as babies, and want to marry/married in Church, sometimes pray and generally believe in some higher entity and that people should try to be good. Usually it also means that they believe some superstitions as well, or believe things incompatible with Catholic theology (like reincarnation, etc.). As Julie also said, people are becoming more defined, though. Catholics seem to be decreasing in number, but increasing in presence, activity, understanding, knowledge and (if I dare) faith. As I said, this is even more clear in scientific/engineering/technology people: for the majority, either we are unbelievers or practising believers of some faith.

    It will become more and more important that the believers live their faith and can explain the reasonability of their belief, as the “enlightened” thing to believe now is that either there is no God or that Church is a bad thing. Still, I am moderately hopeful for the future.

    And now I’ll check Julie’s blog!

  21. Joy

    Really interesting!!! Thanks for doing this!!! Gives me lots to chew on as I call it a night! 🙂

  22. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, I’ve mentioned this title to you but thought I’d mention it here too, because it seems so relevant. After reading Patrick Madrid’s new book, “The Godless Delusion,” I feel like I have a better grasp as to why people are losing their faith. Unfortunately, it’s based on an incomplete picture of life that is infiltrating our educational system and scientific arenas as well. When you have such a large percentage of people who do not believe in God teaching our young children, it follows how easily this way of thinking can infiltrate the community. The students realize it makes some sense, so they go with it, not thinking beyond that point. If they did, they would discover the very logical conclusion that God exists, and that we are made in His likeness and image, and from there, everything begins to make perfect sense. I can say that I was in danger of being affected this way during my own college years, and it took years after that to re-learn my faith and re-indoctrinate myself, if you will. I had to begin thinking counter-culturally about basically everything, and that took some mountain-climbing, but what a view once I’d traversed the summit. And to throw out some positivity: from what I see, even though it appears more people are losing their religion, in pockets where faith is reviving, the revival is quite strong. In other words, the numbers don’t account for the fervor of faith when it does overtake a soul. The numbers are fewer but those who believe believe even more strongly, because once the realization hits, it’s exhilarating and life-changing, especially in light of the emptiness we find all around us. So, I’m hopeful, even in light of the sad numbers and accounts.

    This really was intriguing Jen and I, also, thank you for your work. I mentioned it in my Faith Fridays post the other day!

  23. Liesl

    We were actually talking about this at my Bible study tonight (we get off topic a lot…), since we have two students from India in our study. They asked us about America too – and it seems like it really differs depending on what part of the country you’re in. There are AMAZING diocese, some that are good, and others that are totally slacking in being Catholic. So it’s interesting to see that it’s kind of similar attitude wise in different areas of the world.

  24. Mellie B

    Fascinating. Sad (Europe and US and such). Exciting (Africa and Phillippines.)

    Do you sense a real upheaval, a stirring of the Battle between Good and evil, in the world today?

    I was in a lovely old restaurant tonight with my hubby. The Tavern is older than our United States — with tipsy floors and such. Had just gotten there. Overheard a conversation where an older woman was asking a younger man to speak (or something) before a group — although I didn’t hear about the group and I have no idea who or what — But I heard the woman suggest the young man not say much about Jesus. “We don’t like Jesus,” she proclaimed, quite loudly (too much wine, perhaps, with her dinner?)

    This in Virginia, a small village.

    I was shocked. I was. She laughed and perhaps meant it differently than I took it. But that statement chilled me to the bone.

    I wonder if this was what the 1930s felt like.

  25. Elisa | blissfulE

    I think many take for granted God’s kindness and love, “… for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:5b-6 NIV (emphasis mine)

    Those of us in countries with an aging population attending church reap the blessing of those faithful followers without realising it. But we are now seeing younger people turn completely away and hating the true God. The punishment (such as in secular Norway where they’ve already gone this route) is probably most visible in mental health issues.

    Having just read the book Affluenza, I am reminded that for many people accumulating stuff is a god frequently placed in front of the true God. I have been outside the US for a few years now, but my feeling is that the US is deeply affected by materialism. I see in the comments that other countries are following closely in her footsteps. Reducing the number of “expensive” children so we and they can have more stuff (or waiting to have children until we have attained a certain wealth and status) is part of this phenomenon.

    There appears to be a widespread delusion among nominal Christians that they are serving God rather than mammon, when actions speak otherwise. In some ways I find that more frightening than places where Christianity is less common but the people who believe truly believe. Once again, the punishments for worshiping a material god include deep unhappiness and damaged relationships, but many people see “retail therapy” as a way of curing their blues rather than as part of the problem.

    Thanks for letting me take a moment to philosophize. Lots of thought-provoking issues here, and much need for prayer. (I’m pointing fingers at myself as I type this.)

    • Wsquared

      Elisa, I’m not sure if people take for granted God’s kindness and love as it is that they misunderstand it.

      When a lot of people think about how “God is Love,” they assume that it’s a fuzzy, sentimental, harmless, squishy love that accepts all that you do (and therefore all of your indulgences) and which does not make any demands of you. And when they find out that God’s love is kind and merciful, but also just, they think that God is “mean.”

  26. jeff

    Well what’s it going to take for us Christians to wake up? We need to stay strong and, as Our Lord says in Revelation-strengthen the things that remain. We can’t rely on the institutional Church to get their act together so we need to roll up our sleeves and get down to work!

    We need to be having large families (I think we need to average more than 4) and also raising them properly. We need to teach our own children the faith and warn them of the deceptions of the world and the corrupt media. We need to pray with our children.

    If we aren’t doing these things then we may as well give up now.

  27. KH

    The biggest thing that stuck out to me is that overall, the wealthy, modern countries are losing their faith while impoverished countries are very religious.

    I guess for those of us with means, the temptation is to think we don’t need God anymore.

    • Erika Evans

      You hit the nail on the head, here.

      Clearly, in the first world, we’ve got life by the tail and have no need for those silly fairy tales anymore!

    • Jen G

      Agreed! I think in this age we are very much impressed with ourselves, our technology and our scientific advancements. Many feel as if they don’t “need” God anymore and see religion as something that people held onto because they felt vulnerable in the world. It’s sad.

  28. Jessica

    Jen, thank you for this compilation!

    I just want to say to all of you who are alone in your faith and fighting against the secular tide of the countries in which you live . . . hold on. Hold on, and do not give in. Our brothers and sisters and Christ are with you in spirit.

    More importantly . . . the Lord knows how much you love Him and He sees every single act of your devotion to Him and His Truth. All the angels and saints are by your side and cheering you on, and praying for you to our Savior, and so are we. Life on this side of Heaven will never be easy for any of us, but Christ told us to take up our crosses and follow Him, and that is what you are doing.

    “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
    and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of Me.
    Rejoice and be glad,
    for your reward will be great in heaven.”

    God bless you all. Be strong.

    • Roxane B. Salonen

      Amen! 🙂 I love that we can still be positive here, despite the gut-punch. There is every reason to be hopeful!

  29. Theresa - Respectful Reader

    Dear Marija, Puffin Hen and Cheryl: I find great comfort knowing that fellow believers are sensitive to these issues. Although the internet has its limitations, as Puffin Hen writes it is a powerful tool for encouragement and support as well. Like Cheryl, I too feel called to act where I have been planted, but I often have difficulty discerning that call – especially in the face of massive indifference and at times overt disapproval. Unlike Cheryl, the Catholic community we are closest to (1.5 hours away) is not a source of support. Being a Church of immigrants, the Catholic Church in Norway is struggling with (almost insurmountable) challenges. The first-generation immigrants are more concerned with being Philippino, Sri Lankan, Polish or Vietnamese Catholics than CATHOLIC. I can appreciate this, but those of us from what are traditionally not minority countries (Europeans, Americans and Norwegian converts) find ourselves as not only foreigners in Norway, but foreigners in our church as well (our numbers are few in comparison). My calling (as far as I can discern) is not to the Church, however, but to young Norwegians who have grown up in a climate of spiritual indifference and ignorance. How can I nurture them when I feel unsustained myself? I feel like a front-line soldier and when I look around all I see is the enemy! My comrades-in-arms are books (God bless, but books and the internet go only so far. I should add that I get a lot of encouragement from my Norwegian convert husband, but he’s on a learning curve himself and doesn’t feel called to share his adopted faith.

    • Cléo

      I’ll pray for you Theresa! I can relate to how you feel living amidst such indifference (on the outside) and disapproval, with little human support nearby. Keep reading those books and loggin on to sites like this. In a way, they’re truly a lifeline for us. God bless you ‘on the frontline’.

  30. Rosita

    This is fascinating. Having lived in France for 3 years, the European stuff was very familiar. I was sustained by finding groups of people who had strong faith, even if it wasn’t my own. I attended a Protestant church, as I am Protestant, but I also attended a Catholic young adult group that was lead by 2 nuns.

    As a couple other people mentioned, I would like hearing readers from the US also respond to the questions. Having lived in several areas of the country, I know there would be quite a variety of experiences as well.

  31. Judy @ Learning To Let Go

    I just want to say thank you, Jen, for this compilation. I know it took a lot of time and work to put it together.

  32. Helen

    Thanks for taking the time to put this information together. Great post. God bless.

  33. Sue

    Wow! Thanks Jen for doing all that work. I read through most of the full responses, but seeing it laid out by question made it easy to get the overall picture. It’s a pretty sobering picture in many areas, isn’t it? I feel much more motivated to pray for Christians around the world!

  34. Cléo

    Thanks for putting so much effort in this post, Jennifer.
    Something that saddend me today and forms a good example of the religious atmosphere in Belgium today: (I’m an editors assistant in a big Belgian book company that publishes mainly religious and historical books) A famous cartoonist just begged me by e-mail to NOT mention the fact that he is a catholic religion teacher in highschool, in a book about Belgian cartoonists.
    Why should I leave that information out? ‘People have a totally distorted view of religion and religious teachers these days’. And so this beloved artist chooses not to stand up for his beliefs and maybe change that view for some. Shame…

  35. Alessandro

    Hi! I’m from Italy and I can confirm the feelings of PAT. Everywhere you can see people showing positions contrary to the Church, favoring relativism, or even openly attacking the Church. These are indeed bad days even in the most traditional Italy, historically the home to Popes and great saints. What a mess!
    I also confirm the slow rate in childbirth… too many families stop at one or two kids. Divorces and second marriages are rapidly increasing. Don’t know I we could get out of this crisis…

    • Ismael

      I agree. I am Italian, but living in The Netherlands for 16 years now, but I have been following the Italian religious trends.

      Unfortunately we have several Dawkins-copycats (like P. Oddifreddi) who basically use the same antagonistic and stupid arguments against the Church and Christianity in general.

      In this respect The Netherlands (often seen in Italy as ‘the Babylon of Europe’) appears to me less hostile towards the Church, even in the protestant North where I live.

      Especially among the youth, greatly influenced by online-media (especially online newspapers who claim to have the truth, to be independent, to report what normal newspapers and TV dare not, but are nothing more than the machine of secular and anticlerical propaganda) are becoming extremely hostile towards the Church.

      Anti-Christian literature (books like that make the spurious claims that Jesus did not exist, was a myth, was a woman, was an alien … and other silly claims such as The Da Vinci Code) is widely popular. The same goes for anti-christian and anticlerical movies (like the recenmt ‘Agorà’) and websites.

      No doubt soon Italy will hardly be a ‘Christian country’ anymore, in spite of the recent ‘crucifix-debate’ victory in the European Court.

      On the orther hand the trend of raising Islam is present both in Italy ad in Holland.

  36. Lauren

    More people consider themselves Christians in New Zealand, but few attend services in a country declared to be secular.
    I have recently attended Saturday vigils in a small town in Auckland, and for a Saturday the attendance is considered packed about 300, and good attendance of children. I also noticed that children attend with their parents reinforcing the family atmosphere.
    My health condition is circumstantial; I cough and sneeze a lot among people who wear strong perfumes. The same if the temperature is either too hot or too cold, so I attend services when the weather is warm.

  37. John

    Another thing that stands out about Europe is the declining Christian population and the increasing Muslim population.

    Demographically speaking, Europe will have a Muslim majority in about 50 years assuming the birth rates remain the same as they are now. Europe has effectively killed itself off.

    One of the trends I was not surprised to see is the growing sharp division between anti-religious and religious people. If you look at the comboxes for, say, newspaper sites when they run a religious story you will see a very virulent and hateful form of atheism that is not content to simply not believe but actively promote the ideas that teaching your children your faith is “abuse” and all religious people are ignorant bigots.

    It’s going to be an interesting world in about 10-15 years.

  38. John in Michigan

    I did not see any responses from the US. Is that a confirmation of the dismal church attendance statistics in my part of the world?

  39. Beate

    Super sad. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in Germany, and even then I’d be pointed out in stores and on the streets as ‘the young woman who goes to church with a BABY!’ I spent the first 10 years of my life in Germany and have fond memories of the country living the liturgical year. While my parents and their generation were non-religious even then, my Oma and her siblings were deeply devout.

    I think here in the states, we are insulated in our homeschooling community which seems to be more traditionally Catholic than the community as a whole.

  40. Anthony

    Sorry for being late, but I would like to respond to Eunice’s contribution on Singapore. The following is my response to Eunice’s answers to Jennifer’s questions:
    Hi Eunice,
    Would like to respond to a few points:

    re: Megachurches attract 100,000 each weekend
    Did a quick search. City Harvest and New Creation would get about 50,000 on the weekend. Who else are you including in your estimate?

    re: Religious demographics of Singapore
    Based on the latest census (2010), after Christians, the next group is “no religion”.

    re: Question 3
    Maybe you move in different circles, Eunice. In my workplace, in my neighbourhood, when I report for military service etc. etc., people don’t talk about religion! In my opinion, the unspoken rule in Singapore is: keep religion private.

    re: Question 4
    I should add that there have been incidents through the years which reinforce the secular character of public life in Singapore, e.g. the so-called “Marxist conspiracy” of 1987, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act of 1991, the couple which got jailed for spreading anti-Muslim tracts in 2009, the AWARE saga etc.

    re: Question 5
    I have to disagree here, Eunice! Singapore has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and Catholics as a whole aren’t doing much to help, from what I can see. It’s the Malays, who are Muslims, who have more children. Them, and fervent Christians (including Catholics). But how many % of Christians are fervent?

    re: Question 6
    Sorry, but again, I have to disagree. From my perspective, I don’t see any particular religion being dominant, although, statistically, the Buddhist-Taoist group is still the largest group. My view, backed up with some statistics, is that Singapore is on the whole becoming less religious.

    • Anthony

      I think I need to add to my own comments. As many have observed, the decline of religion is accompanied simultaneously with the rise of consumerism. This is certainly true in Singapore. It’s true to the point of being the source of jokes e.g. Singaporeans are Money-theists.

  41. That Married Couple

    Thank you so much for compiling these. It really is soo interesting! Even my husband, who hates to read, was so fascinated that he sat here and read every line!

  42. Ismael

    Most of us remember when “The Grand Desing” came out and

    1.Where do you live?

    Netherlands although I am Italian. Living in the North-Easth of the Netherlands for almost 16 years now.

    2.What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    There are quite a lot of church buildings in the North-Netherlands (province of Groningen close to Germany). A village of 5-6000 people I used to live in ha SEVEN churches of seven different denominations, for example.

    In the city of Groningen (about 120.000 people where 40-50.000 are undergrad or phD students) there are also many churches ansd several Christian student associations.

    Regarging Mass attendance:
    I do not know about non-Catholics, but in the Church of Groningen Mass Attendance is not too bad. Not great, but not bad either.

    We have several masses including a vesper mass on Saturday evening for foreigners (usually undergrad students or phD students) in English and that mass has a significant attendance… between the 30 (during the holidays when students travel back home) and 60 people. Sometimes more. 90% of the m are young people, between 18 and 35.

    Dutch mass also has decent attendances and there are quite a few youngsters in there too.

    There is also a Student’s mass in Dutch, but that has a slim attendance.

    In conclusion although probably a small portion of Catholics goes regularly to mass, there is a significance presence of people, who actively partecipate in the faith.

    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I doubt that God enters very easily in casual conversations. I sometimes debate issued with a colleague (we are both physicists) who likes Dawkins (I tried to explain Aquinas to him with no result), in friendly terms.
    I usually discuss religion only with other Christians (not necessarily Catholics: another of my colleagues is a reformed/pentecostal young-earth creationist)

    Sincerely I doubt I would bring up God, the Church or prayer casually to strangers.

    Oddly enough I’d be more cautious of speaking about religion in ‘Catholic Italy’ than ‘Secular Holland’… I think Italians are getting more and more hostile to the Church… and in an angry way.


    4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Varied. The Netherlands has different politicians, some Christians, some atheists and they all admit their beliefs openly.

    About 2 years ago a atheist politician debated a Catholic Bishop regarding the existence of God on TV. It was an interesting debate, very civil. No ‘Hitchens’ hate speeches’, but a calm exchange of point of views.

    Some politicians are also strongly and openly ‘anti-Islam’ (you probably have heard of Geert Wilders and Hirsi Ali).

    As far as I know there are no truly ‘Dutch Dawkins’. Atheism and anti-Christianity here are more silent, but still present, at least in my experience.


    5.How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Many Dutch families have 2-3 kids. This comes form the fact that the state finances families with children until the children are 18.

    I have never seen a 6-children family, yet, although polls claim that many muslim families have from 4 to 8 children.

    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    I think agnosticism. Holland has been a strongly secularized country for a while now.

    However there are a few converts who get baptized every year.

    Very popular are the new age movements, tarot card readers and the like as well.
    When religion goes away usually people turn to superstition and the occult for spirituality.


    7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    I think Catholicism is reaffirming itself in the Netherlands.

    Of course in general the population is getting more and more non-religious.

    I fear a future, not a very distant one, where Christianity will be only a minority group in Europe.

    • Ismael

      Oops first part “Most of us remember when “The Grand Desing” came out and …” was part of something else I was writing on word (I try to spell check my answers) *red-faced shame*

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